New Board Member On-boarding Action Plan

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    Dean Moretton
    Dean
    Member

    Newly elected cooperative board members will certainly appreciate a well-engineered and comprehensive plan for their ‘on-boarding’ process.  Although every new Director joins with some experience, the nuances of established board processes, language, and functions necessary to provide valuable input into the cooperative leadership team requires time and effort.  In the US, the “new board member” on-boarding process is not often employed because Co-op Board membership doesn’t change often and might be as simple as ‘read the Board Bi-laws and Cooperative Policy binders’.

    To ease this process and improve the new Board member’s adoption of new information, let’s look at areas likely shared across most Co-op Boards where information isn’t likely to be clear to new member and discuss how to help the new Board Member become productive as quickly as possible.

    Expectations

    Most board members are expected to review meeting information prior to Board meeting and come with questions.  Some cooperatives expect their board members to join political action groups such as ACRE and FORE, but these won’t be obvious to new-comers.  Conferences for board members occur throughout the year and understanding each conference’s focus will also take time. Statewide conferences, regional conferences, and G&T meetings are announced with a flyer and left to interpretation on what purpose and opportunity each meeting represents.

    Acronyms meanings and functions

    When you enter a new domain, you bring certain preconceptions.  For some, IEC stands for International Electrotechnical Commission; for some IEC means Indiana Electric Cooperatives.  NRECA, CRN, CFC, TIER, MDSC, and DSC are just a few examples of the Cooperative domain acronym speak that must be assimilated by the newly appointed board member to comprehend board room conversation.  A cooperative acronym dictionary certainly would be useful.

    Tools

    Tools available to the new Board member include CFC KRTA online tools, cooperative.com, statewide agency websites, NRECA website and Touch Stone Energy website.  A listing of tools, their function, and web location would be a valuable asset during initial months.

    Education

    Board member’s pursuit of education is desired and encouraged at most cooperatives.  Some of these items include pursuing NRECA’s leadership training courses and perhaps completing the 5 courses required for Credentialed Cooperative Director (CCD) within a set amount of time, maybe even a condition for qualifying to run for a 2nd term.  The earlier this set of base education classes is taken in relation to beginning of the term, the easier board meetings will be for the newbie.  To maximize the new Board member’s return on invested time, a suggested education curriculum with timeline would be helpful.

    Board Elections

    New Directors are asked to vote for Board Officers, G&T Board Representative, Statewide Representative and perhaps more positions at their first Board Meeting.  For the new Director, it’s an uniformed vote.  It’s voting for final election without nominations, not knowing who is and is not running for which position, or who’s most qualified for the position.  If Officer Elections are required at 1st Board meeting following elections, some information could be sent beforehand to the new Director so they are prepared for their 1st Board meeting.

    Background Information

    1. Introductions: Have the new Director come an hour before first Board Meeting, or separate day, to meet key Co-op staff.  Exchange background information, ideally in writing, to help new Director associate names with faces and jobs inside and outside Board Room.
    2. Cooperative Operations: The new Board member is starting from ground zero.  They should be given copies of the Co-op Strategic 3 year plan, annual Board meeting schedule, current year’s Board meeting monthly discussion topics, expected Board meeting dates, current Co-op annual budget, annual budget target dates (creation, review, & approval), Board minutes from past year, a one-on-one review of Board packet content, & Board Meeting software training.
    3. Education and Conferences.  Guidance and description regarding what yearly meetings offered to Directors, would be helpful.  Perhaps experienced Board members could provide importance ranking, in terms of 1st  year, 2nd year, 3rd year related to which conferences are most valuable correlated to time in office and what each ‘repeating’ annual event covers. Provide the dates for known future conferences so the new Director can evaluate time away from work at the earliest point.  Furthermore, communicate any information related to Director budget for education annually and Director budget for committee activity annually.

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